Analysis of companies, products, and user strategies in the area of business intelligence. Related subjects include:
Whenever somebody asks for my help on application technology strategy, I start by trying to ascertain three things. The absolute first is actually a prerequisite to almost any kind of useful conversation, which is to ascertain in general terms what the hell it is that we are talking about.
My second goal is to ascertain technology constraints. Three common types are:
- Compatible with legacy systems and/or enterprise standards.
- Cheap, free and/or open source.
- Proven, vetted by sufficiently many references, and/or generally having an “enterprise-y” reputation.
That’s often a short and straightforward discussion, except in those awkward situations when all three of my bullet points above are applicable at once.
The third item is usually more interesting. I try to figure out what is to be accomplished. That’s usually not a simple matter, because the initial list of goals and requirements is almost never accurate. It’s actually more common that I have to tell somebody to be more ambitious than that I need to rein them in.
Commonly overlooked needs include:
- If you want to sell something and have happy users, you need a good UI.
- You will also soon need tools and a UI for administration.
- Customers demand low-latency/fresh data. Your explanation of why they don’t really need it doesn’t contradict the fact that they want it.
- Providing data access and saying “You can hook up any BI tool you want and build charts” is not generally regarded as offering a good UI.
- When “adding analytics” to something previously focused on short-request processing, it is common to underestimate the variety of things users will soon want to do. (One common reason for this under-estimate is that after years of being told it can’t be done, they’ve learned not to ask.)
And if you take one thing away from this post, then take this:
- If you “know” exactly which features are or aren’t helpful to users, …
- .. and if you supply only what you “know” they should use, …
- … then you will discover that what you “knew” wasn’t really accurate.
I guarantee it.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Buying processes, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics||2 Comments|
Cloudera released Version 2 of Cloudera Director, which is a companion product to Cloudera Manager focused specifically on the cloud. This led to a discussion about — you guessed it! — Cloudera and the cloud.
Making Cloudera run in the cloud has three major aspects:
- Cloudera’s usual software, ported to run on the cloud platform(s).
- Cloudera Director, which for example launches cloud instances.
- Points of integration, e.g. taking information about security-oriented roles from the platform and feeding then to the role-based security that is specific to Cloudera Enterprise.
Features new in this week’s release of Cloudera Director include:
- An API for job submission.
- Support for spot and preemptable instances.
- High availability.
- Some cluster repair.
- Some cluster cloning.
I.e., we’re talking about some pretty basic/checklist kinds of things. Cloudera Director is evidently working for Amazon AWS and Google GCP, and planned for Windows Azure, VMware and OpenStack.
As for porting, let me start by noting: Read more
I’m on two overlapping posting kicks, namely “lessons from the past” and “stuff I keep saying so might as well also write down”. My recent piece on Oracle as the new IBM is an example of both themes. In this post, another example, I’d like to memorialize some points I keep making about business intelligence and other analytics. In particular:
- BI relies on strong data access capabilities. This is always true. Duh.
- Therefore, BI and other analytics vendors commonly reinvent the data management wheel. This trend ebbs and flows with technology cycles.
Similarly, BI has often been tied to data integration/ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) functionality.* But I won’t address that subject further at this time.
*In the Hadoop/Spark era, that’s even truer of other analytics than it is of BI.
My top historical examples include:
- The 1970s analytic fourth-generation languages (RAMIS, NOMAD, FOCUS, et al.) commonly combined reporting and data management.
- The best BI visualization technology of the 1980s, Executive Information Systems (EIS), was generally unsuccessful. The core reason was a lack of what we’d now call drilldown. Not coincidentally, EIS vendors — notably leader Comshare — didn’t do well at DBMS-like technology.
- Business Objects, one of the pioneers of the modern BI product category, rose in large part on the strength of its “semantic layer” technology. (If you don’t know what that is, you can imagine it as a kind of virtual data warehouse modest enough in its ambitions to actually be workable.)
- Cognos, the other pioneer of modern BI, depending on capabilities for which it needed a bundled MOLAP (Multidimensional OnLine Analytic Processing) engine.
- But Cognos later stopped needing that engine, which underscores my point about technology ebbing and flowing.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Business Objects, Cognos, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Hadoop, Information Builders, MicroStrategy, Software as a Service (SaaS), Teradata||5 Comments|
Mike Stonebraker and Larry Ellison have numerous things in common. If nothing else:
- They’re both titanic figures in the database industry.
- They both gave me testimonials on the home page of my business website.
- They both have been known to use the present tense when the future tense would be more accurate.
I mention the latter because there’s a new edition of Readings in Database Systems, aka the Red Book, available online, courtesy of Mike, Joe Hellerstein and Peter Bailis. Besides the recommended-reading academic papers themselves, there are 12 survey articles by the editors, and an occasional response where, for example, editors disagree. Whether or not one chooses to tackle the papers themselves — and I in fact have not dived into them — the commentary is of great interest.
But I would not take every word as the gospel truth, especially when academics describe what they see as commercial market realities. In particular, as per my quip in the first paragraph, the data warehouse market has not yet gone to the extremes that Mike suggests,* if indeed it ever will. And while Joe is close to correct when he says that the company Essbase was acquired by Oracle, what actually happened is that Arbor Software, which made Essbase, merged with Hyperion Software, and the latter was eventually indeed bought by the giant of Redwood Shores.**
*When it comes to data warehouse market assessment, Mike seems to often be ahead of the trend.
**Let me interrupt my tweaking of very smart people to confess that my own commentary on the Oracle/Hyperion deal was not, in retrospect, especially prescient.
Mike pretty much opened the discussion with a blistering attack against hierarchical data models such as JSON or XML. To a first approximation, his views might be summarized as: Read more
I only have mixed success at getting my clients to reach out to me for messaging advice when they’re introducing something new. Cloudera Navigator Optimizer, which is being announced along with Cloudera 5.5, is one of my failures in that respect; I heard about it for the first time Tuesday afternoon. I hate the name. I hate some of the slides I saw. But I do like one part of the messaging, namely the statement that this is about “refactoring” queries.
All messaging quibbles aside, I think the Cloudera Navigator Optimizer story is actually pretty interesting, and perhaps not just to users of SQL-on-Hadoop technologies such as Hive (which I guess I’d put in that category for simplicity) or Impala. As I understand Cloudera Navigator Optimizer:
- It’s all about analytic SQL queries.
- Specifically, it’s about reducing duplicated work.
- It is not an “optimizer” in the ordinary RDBMS sense of the word.
- It’s delivered via SaaS (Software as a Service).
- Conceptually, it’s not really tied to SQL-on-Hadoop. However, …
- … in practice it likely will be used by customers who want to optimize performance of Cloudera’s preferred styles of SQL-on-Hadoop, either because they’re already using SQL-on-Hadoop or in connection with an initial migration.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Cloudera, Data pipelining, Data warehousing, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Hadoop, SQL/Hadoop integration||4 Comments|
Parts of the business intelligence differentiation story resemble the one I just posted for data management. After all:
- Both kinds of products query and aggregate data.
- Both are offered by big “enterprise standard” behemoth companies and also by younger, nimbler specialists.
- You really, really, really don’t want your customer data to leak via a security breach in either kind of product.
That said, insofar as BI’s competitive issues resemble those of DBMS, they are those of DBMS-lite. For example:
- BI is less mission-critical than some other database uses.
- BI has done a lot less than DBMS to deal with multi-structured data.
- Scalability demands on BI are less than those on DBMS — indeed, they’re the ones that are left over after the DBMS has done its data crunching first.
And full-stack analytic systems — perhaps delivered via SaaS (Software as a Service) — can moot the BI/data management distinction anyway.
Of course, there are major differences between how DBMS and BI are differentiated. The biggest are in user experience. I’d say: Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Buying processes, ClearStory Data, Data mart outsourcing, Pricing, QlikTech and QlikView, Rocana, Tableau Software||Leave a Comment|
This is part of a three-post series on Kudu, a new data storage system from Cloudera.
- Part 1 (this post) is an overview of Kudu technology.
- Part 2 is a lengthy dive into how Kudu writes and reads data.
- Part 3 is a brief speculation as to Kudu’s eventual market significance.
Cloudera is introducing a new open source project, Kudu,* which from Cloudera’s standpoint is meant to eventually become the single best underpinning for analytics on the Hadoop stack. I’ve spent multiple hours discussing Kudu with Cloudera, mainly with Todd Lipcon. Any errors are of course entirely mine.
*Like the impala, the kudu is a kind of antelope. I knew that, because I enjoy word games. What I didn’t know — and which is germane to the naming choice — is that the kudu has stripes.
- Kudu is an alternative to HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System), or to HBase.
- Kudu is meant to be the underpinning for Impala, Spark and other analytic frameworks or engines.
- Kudu is not meant for OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing), at least in any foreseeable release. For example:
- Kudu doesn’t support multi-row transactions.
- There are no active efforts to front-end Kudu with an engine that is fast at single-row queries.
- Kudu is rather columnar, except for transitory in-memory stores.
- Kudu’s core design points are that it should:
- Accept data very quickly.
- Immediately make that data available for analytics.
- More specifically, Kudu is meant to accept, along with slower forms of input:
- Lots of fast random writes, e.g. of web interactions.
- Streams, viewed as a succession of inserts.
- Updates and inserts alike.
- The core “real-time” use cases for which Kudu is designed are, unsurprisingly:
- Low-latency business intelligence.
- Predictive model scoring.
- Kudu is designed to work fine with spinning disk, and indeed has been tested to date mainly on disk-only nodes. Even so, Kudu’s architecture is optimized for the assumption that there will be at least some flash on the node.
- Kudu is designed primarily to support relational/SQL processing. However, Kudu also has a nested-data roadmap, which of course starts with supporting the analogous capabilities in Impala.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Cloudera, Columnar database management, Database compression, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Hadoop, HBase, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Solid-state memory, SQL/Hadoop integration||7 Comments|
- My client Rocana is the renamed ScalingData, where Rocana is meant to signify ROot Cause ANAlysis.
- Rocana was founded by Omer Trajman, who I’ve referenced numerous times in the past, and who I gather is a former boss of …
- … cofounder Eric Sammer.
- Rocana recently told me it had 35 people.
- Rocana has a very small number of quite large customers.
Rocana portrays itself as offering next-generation IT operations monitoring software. As you might expect, this has two main use cases:
- Actual operations — figuring out exactly what isn’t working, ASAP.
Rocana’s differentiation claims boil down to fast and accurate anomaly detection on large amounts of log data, including but not limited to:
- The sort of network data you’d generally think of — “everything” except packet-inspection stuff.
- Firewall output.
- Database server logs.
- Point-of-sale data (at a retailer).
- “Application data”, whatever that means. (Edit: See Tom Yates’ clarifying comment below.)
|Categories: Business intelligence, Hadoop, Kafka and Confluent, Log analysis, Market share and customer counts, Petabyte-scale data management, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Pricing, Rocana, Splunk, Web analytics||1 Comment|
MongoDB isn’t the only company I reached out to recently for an update. Another is DataStax. I chatted mainly with Patrick McFadin, somebody with whom I’ve had strong consulting relationships at a user and vendor both. But Rachel Pedreschi contributed the marvelous phrase “twinkling dashboard”.
It seems fair to say that in most cases:
- Cassandra is adopted for operational applications, specifically ones with requirements for extreme uptime and/or extreme write speed. (Of course, it should also be the case that NoSQL data structures are a good fit.)
- Spark, including SparkSQL, and Solr are seen primarily as ways to navigate or analyze the resulting data.
Those generalities, in my opinion, make good technical sense. Even so, there are some edge cases or counterexamples, such as:
- DataStax trumpets British Gas‘ plans collecting a lot of sensor data and immediately offering it up for analysis.*
- Safeway uses Cassandra for a mobile part of its loyalty program, scoring customers and pushing coupons at them.
- A large title insurance company uses Cassandra-plus-Solr to manage a whole lot of documents.
*And so a gas company is doing lightweight analysis on boiler temperatures, which it regards as hot data.
While most of the specifics are different, I’d say similar things about MongoDB, Cassandra, or any other NoSQL DBMS that comes to mind: Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Cassandra, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, DataStax, NoSQL, Open source, Petabyte-scale data management, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Specific users, Text||6 Comments|
One pleasure in talking with my clients at MongoDB is that few things are NDA. So let’s start with some numbers:
- >2,000 named customers, the vast majority of which are unique organizations who do business with MongoDB directly.
- ~75,000 users of MongoDB Cloud Manager.
- Estimated ~1/4 million production users of MongoDB total.
Also >530 staff, and I think that number is a little out of date.
MongoDB lacks many capabilities RDBMS users take for granted. MongoDB 3.2, which I gather is slated for early November, narrows that gap, but only by a little. Features include:
- Some JOIN capabilities.
- Specifically, these are left outer joins, so they’re for lookup but not for filtering.
- JOINs are not restricted to specific shards of data …
- … but do benefit from data co-location when it occurs.
- A BI connector. Think of this as a MongoDB-to- SQL translator. Using this does require somebody to go in and map JSON schemas and relational tables to each other. Once that’s done, the flow is:
- Basic SQL comes in.
- Filters and GroupBys are pushed down to MongoDB. A result set … well, it results.
- The result set is formatted into a table and returned to the system — for example a business intelligence tool — that sent the SQL.
- Database-side document validation, in the form of field-specific rules that combine into a single expression against which to check a document.
- This is fairly simple stuff — no dependencies among fields in the same document, let alone foreign key relationships.
- MongoDB argues, persuasively, that this simplicity makes it unlikely to recreate the spaghetti code maintenance nightmare that was 1990s stored procedures.
- MongoDB concedes that, for performance, it will ordinarily be a good idea to still do your validation on the client side.
- MongoDB points out that enforcement can be either strict (throw errors) or relaxed (just note invalid documents to a log). The latter option is what makes it possible to install this feature without breaking your running system.
There’s also a closed-source database introspection tool coming, currently codenamed MongoDB Scout. Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Market share and customer counts, MongoDB, NoSQL, Open source, Structured documents, Text||6 Comments|